Clemente!

Willie Perdomo, illus. by Bryan Collier, Holt, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-8050-8224-1

The joy of hero worship is on full display in this tribute to “Puerto Rican prince” Roberto Clemente, the first Latin American Hall of Famer, who died in 1972 while flying on a humanitarian mission to Nicaragua. The young narrator, named Clemente by his diehard fan father (“ask him why he thinks that the number 21 should be retired forever”), knows “all the stats, and I can tell you todo, everything” about Clemente. And if he forgets something, another family fan, his mother, “jumps in and reminds us that he was a good father and a good son,” who “nunca abandonó su sueño” of a better and more just world. Perdomo (previously paired with Collier on Visiting Langston) strikes just the right note of precocious breathlessness, punctuating his text with Spanish to convey a people’s enormous pride in one of their own (“Clemente! Clemente! It’s us, ¡tu gente! Clemente! Clemente! Prince of the baseball diamante!”). Collier’s watercolor and collage pictures have a burnished look worthy of a heartfelt hagiography while at the same time evoking the dynamism of a genuine superstar athlete. Ages 6–up. (May)